So Many Ways to Sleep Badly (an excerpt)
"Assimilate My Purse," Maximumrocknroll, November 2008
Okay, so I'm sitting here wondering what to write about, what to write about this month and I realize oh -- my new novel, So Many Ways to Sleep Badly is finally out, at long last!!! And I'm about to go on a two-month tour, so I should post an excerpt from the new novel, right? And, if you want to see me in person, check out my tour list via my website. So far, I'm going to San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, Chicago, Toronto, Montréal, Boston, New York, Washington DC, and Baltimore, and also planning definitely planning more Bay Area readings + Santa Cruz and Los Angeles, with more to come... Here's the excerpt:
You know those tricks who’ve had 50 years of practice sucking cock—and I do mean 50 years—and still it’s sandpaper city. What’s up with that? This straightboy on the street says you remind me of Alice In Wonderland, how sweet! Though I think my father molested me during that movie. Alice just kept falling and falling.
3 a.m. and of course I’m wired—remember the early nineties? Tweakin’ and tweezin’, tweakin’ and tweazin’. Every time a trick hangs up on me, I gain a renewed faith in humanity—someone really cares! Looking worse in the mirror, do you believe in insurance? Aaron says there’s an online community called pneumothorax.com—his collapsed lung finally has a home! Donna Karan Donna Karan Donna Karan.
Fighter jets and fire engines, oh it’s my mother’s birthday! She leaves a message, did she really say I love you? More sirens. I’m so dehydrated and Congress authorizes President Bush to wage war against Iraq while fighter jets just keep flying over and over. Everyone in the street stops to stare. But where are all those jets going?
The US government is already talking about post-war occupation of Iraq, and the tendons in my feet and hands are burning. The sky is still so loud—is that a bomb? So much pain in my head, everybody’s allergic to war. But wait—there’s good news: the stock market is up 7.8 percent in two days and you’ve been invited to celebrate Disney’s 100th Anniversary with a four-day, three night vacation stay in Orlando, Florida near world-famous Walt Disney World. Plus, you’ll enjoy three days/two nights on the white sand beaches of Daytona—all for $99 per person. The confirmation for your invitation is Magical 752.
News brief: someone on the phone sex line used the word tender! Apparently the roaches enjoy the base of my electric toothbrush, a safe warm home for the fringe. I hate it when I get so exhausted that I can’t function, and then I get depressed—wait, that happens every day! My trick loves this weather—we have this weather every night. If I stayed in bed for two months, who would feed me?
This trick says wasn’t it fun to watch the Blue Angels? A taxi driver tells me air shows are America’s number one pastime. The toast at 7 a.m. is so dry, and I can feel my depression creeping up on me—HELP! There’s a good luck penny in the hallway—okay, everything’s going to be fine. Sick, sick, sick, sick—kick!
My next trick has such pale skin, reminds me of when I was afraid of the sun too—was I that pale? My favorite moment is when I tell him his hair is soft, he says thanks, I work on it. Felix’s mixing takes me out of depression, through nostalgia and into the border area. Like I could cry, or fly. Which do I prefer—using a dildo and fucking up my hand, or using my dick and inflaming my jock itch? The bride is arriving soon, and I must please her. Over the phone, he says: I just got in from Paris and I feel like shit, are you up for fucking? I just got in from Paris and I feel like shit, are you up for fucking? I just got in from Paris and I feel like shit, are you up for fucking?
As soon as the trick walks in, I know I’m not going to be able to fuck him. He’s working the receding hairline with gooey grey ponytail and blue contacts to contrast his leather tanning salon skin, Fila jumpsuit and big silver rings on all his fingers, round tortoise shell eyeglasses. This girl is married, with kids—and now she needs tea, then a shower. But God save the queen, he comes while I’m jerking him off. Then the best part is when he tells me about his town, he says the racial composition is twenty-five different shades of white, and the architecture is like Taco Bell designed heaven.
In the depressed area of the trick’s town, the houses go for $500,000, but to really fit in you need to own not only a pool, but an indoor pool, a North-South tennis court and a two-story garage for the $500,000 RV. It’s not just a gated community, they’ve got armed guards on patrol. Everywhere there are blue-haired ladies in designer jeans wearing enough diamond bracelets to get a hernia.
Did I mention the trick’s umbilical hernia, a bubble of mushy skin oozing out of his belly button like a force-field. Rich people are so glamorous. The next trick hands me a glass of tap water—the bitch doesn’t know if she can get money out of the bank, but her apartment must be worth three million, and the doorman has to unlock the elevator. This is just the San Francisco apartment.
Dreams of new houseplants, changing what it says on the computer screen, and stress, stress, stress! Did I mention Ralowe’s show? We performed together at this hipster nightmare, he finished the night with layers of noise, drums that were just another instrument on top of the machines and then Ralowe shaking his body and shouting rap vocals over the commotion. It was delicious. Everyone left.
Today the sun is filtering through the clouds, and I’m rooting for the clouds. Shit—here comes the sun—and is it really 4 p.m.? All the little memories loading me down—like I’m eating tom kha soup with Rue, and Jeremy introduced me to that soup. Buying plants together, going to visit the sea lions and I can’t bring myself to get rid of the stuffed animals, even though they just make me think of petting Jeremy, sweet Jeremy. I want to call him and tell him I miss him, but I don’t want to call him.
I know it's dangerous to get all teary-eyed about the time when my white boyfriend introduced me to a Thai specialty, but that's how nostalgia works—nostalgia is dangerous. Kayti remembers when she used to say she was Persian, so people wouldn't know that she was Latina—people thought it was more glamorous to be from Persia; we both had a lot of Persian friends. Kayti says they were really from Iran, right?
Dreams that they’ve changed my front door, can I get out? I’m thinking about how many pairs of eyes we look into each day—there’s this guy on the bus with beautiful grey eyes, I can’t stop looking. I catch another eye in the back, just one, a blond guy. The bus arrives. At home, I jerk off so I don’t have to think about hooking up.
I’m telling Justin and Owen about Jeremy, and then all of the sudden ten people show up at their house, I guess it’s 2 a.m. Owen says you switch so easily into social mode. I don’t know what mode I’m in, suddenly I’ve got so much energy, and Xylor says I saw you earlier and I was telling somebody about your outfit—it was the most preposterous combination of colors I’ve ever seen, I even remembered the red socks, though it didn’t make sense. The person I was talking to said yeah, Mattilda likes red socks.
Ralowe starts free-styling and I’m dancing on top of the ottoman, it’s all about the hands and body twisting and tensening, breathe in, out. Almost falling off and recovering. I have so much energy, it’s crazy—and too late, really. Xylor says I wonder why. I say no, that’s not why. She looks at my eyes. Well, maybe you’re just a night person.
I’m so glad everyone goes outside to smoke, Billeil even checks to make sure. Ralowe and I leave, I’m looking at the doors in front of the apartment. The apartment’s so long and thin, was it made for immigrant workers or did they subdivide it? Then I’m looking into the funeral home, and wait the door frame next door is gorgeous and Ralowe says he’s exhausted. I’m getting exhausted too.
Just as I’m hailing a taxi, the bus comes. Ralowe tries to get on the back and the bus driver calls him out—get off the bus, he says. Ralowe gets off, I’m waving him to the front and the bus driver speeds away. This woman says just because they’re black, they think they can get on for free. The bus driver, who’s black, says shut your mouth already. The woman looks at me, she says your daddy raped you and that's why you’re a faggot. I say my daddy raped me, but that’s not why I’m a faggot. She says your daddy raped you and that’s why you’re a faggot. I say your problem is that you tasted shit, and then you just kept eating it. She gets off the bus.
I call Ralowe on his cellphone: honey, you should have asked me for a dollar. Ralowe says I’m gonna walk home—all the way to North Beach? He says: I’m gonna work on this song. I say well I’ll call you when I get home, ‘cause I’ve got a story for you. He says don’t call me because I don’t have any minutes, I’ll see you tomorrow. I say I might not get up in time. He says then I’ll see you Tuesday.
We’re all crazy, holding it together with such fine threads. I’m waiting for the 90 at Van Ness and Mission, and I’m getting all emotional—it’s not okay for a bus driver to make you walk home because you don’t have enough money for the fare—and does the 90 ever come? Finally it pulls up, I can’t believe it, and just as I get on the bus there’s a 10-foot high ad for Tommy Hillfiger, the whole ad is this guy’s abs and the stars-and-stripes. It’s sickening and suddenly I’m horny in that desperate way.